The Nikiski football team used a 20-point second quarter to earn a 26-7 Greatland Conference victory over Monroe in the 2011 season opener on a drizzly Friday night at Nikiski.
The Bulldogs, who won the conference title a year ago, used a heavy dose of runs out of the Wing-T offense to wear down the Rams, piling up 314 yards on the ground.
Nikiski had its first touchdown less than a minute into the game, as Stephen Hartley plunged in from six yards out after returning the opening kickoff 74 yards to the Monroe 11.
"Setting the tone early is big," Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said. "We wanted to knock the cobwebs out early."
The Rams took their only lead of the game late in the first when Jason Pace hit Chris Gavora for a 31-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play, capping a 78-yard drive.
But the next 12 minutes belonged to the Bulldogs.
Nikiski, which had three running backs finish with at least 50 yards, scored three touchdowns in a span of nine minutes to break the game open.
Kaden Spurgeon, who rushed for a team-best 180 yards, scored his lone touchdown of the game on a 17-yard burst with 10:13 to play. The two-point conversion was successful, giving Nikiski a 14-7.
On the Bulldogs' next possession, Josh Brown capped a three-play, 58-yard drive with an 11-yard scamper. Brown finished with 79 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Colton Anderson then hit Hartley for a 24-yard score to give Nikiski a 26-7 lead just before halftime.
Despite the strong second quarter, Hartley said the Bulldogs could have done more.
"It was like we came out a little over-hyped," said Hartley, who finished with 59 yards rushing, 52 receiving and scored twice. "We were trying to make plays."
A scoreless second half so both squads turn to the running game.
Monroe, which dressed just 16 players, relied on workhorse running back James Holmes. Holmes carried the ball 34 times for 184 yards, bulldozing through Nikiski's front seven.
The Rams got inside the Bulldogs 20-yard line twice over the final 24 minutes, but came away with nothing.
Nikiski allowed 215 yards rushing, but forced the Rams to turn the ball over on downs both times Monroe entered the red zone.
"We bent," Riddall said, "but we didn't break."
If there was an area the Bulldogs were weak, it was taking care of the ball. Nikiski fumbled four times, losing two of them. Anderson also threw an interception.
Riddall attributed the fumbles to a lack of focus.
"We've still got some things to work on," he said.
Nikiski hosts Sitka at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Bulldogs 26, Rams 7
Monroe 7 0 0 0 -7
Nikiski 6 20 0 0 -26
Nik - Hartley 6 run (pass failed), 11:38
Mon - Gavora 31 pass from Pace (Pace kick), 1:07
Nik - Spurgeon 17 run (Hartley run), 10:13
Nik - Brown 11 run (kick failed), 5:07
Nik - Hartley 24 pass from Anderson (pass failed)
First downs 15 15
Rushes-yards 50-215 34-314
Passing yards 82 83
Passing 6-14-1 4-9-1
Fumbles lost 0-0 4-2
Penalties-yards 4-35 4-25
Rushing - Monroe: Holmes 34-184, Bynum 9-44, Gavora 2-(-1), Pace 5-(-12). Nikiski - Spurgeon 17-180, Hartley 11-59, Brown 6-75.
Passing - Monroe: Pace 6-14-1-82. Nikiski: Anderson 4-9-1-83.
Receiving - Monroe: Bynum 3-36, Gavora 2-40, Martolano 1-6. Nikiski: Armstrong 2-31, Hartley 2-52.